peacockhen

In 2013 things were different from what it would be in 2014, but this I did not know in 2013, which was also a year of discoveries. I discovered that she did not wear coloured bras, only white and black and one beige. The black itself made her feel scandalous she said, but she wore it as a secret and hid it in the bottom of her shelf- she did not say from whom she kept this a secret. I also discovered that she said the word ‘bra’ in a whisper as if the bra kept falling out of the sentence. I said I only wore black bras. This, against the wisdom of my mother who bought me these bras insisting that I buy another colour because ‘everyone has black bras, they’ll steal yours’. In 2013 I also made another bold decision, to buy black satin underwear. It looked like nothing and felt silken and slippery. It was this new purchase that had in the first place started the conversation of the whispered black bra.

It was also the same year that we decided to buy our bras ourselves, coloured ones even. Of course we never did.
Later in 2016 when I would first experience not wearing a bra, I will think of what a painful excursion it would have been to buy bras in whispers. In this same year I first saw pasties and knew it wouldn’t warrant even a whisper, but stark disapproval of its very existence! Even in beige.
 It was during the second half of 2013 that a cow butted me from behind, causing me to roll over onto the road and lie for a few minutes in utter disbelief. The blunt horn had also torn into my favourite top, leaving a square of cloth limply hanging from the rest of the fabric. I remember limping back home ears burning, wondering whether she could see my blue bra from the little torn window on my back. I decided later that she would take time, if ever, to find the right pitch and tone for a blue bra.
It was the same year she had trouble breathing. In between deep raspy breaths, she sat at the edge of the bed telling me she went shopping with her sister. Blue bra, raspy breath.
Meanwhile I got my torn top sown, bright pink bordered square on the bright green fabric. In 2015, when my blue bra got stolen and reappeared on my next door neighbour’s clothesline I would wear my bright green top.
In 2014, I discovered through sheer accident that she was seeing someone. Through 2014 and 2015 there would be no conversation in whispers or otherwise, until the day my blue bra disappeared.
I discovered that year that she no longer whispered the word bra, but laughed and laughed about a cow having butted me two years ago.
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ghosts for the haunting and the Prologue(2)

How beautiful it is to look at, never have I seen or heard anything like it- Nalacharitam, Unnayi Warrier

 

krishna gopikas

***

Nila looks her best at  night. She is resplendent in the rains, full and flowing. The lazy river is antithetical to the typical Keralite who wakes up at the crack of dawn and shuts shop at sunset.  Nila belongs to the night, ripples of moonlight gleaming on her silvery waters. Nila likes being not merely the protagonist, but the solitary character to her own story. It is from her story that we borrow the beginnings to the story of Kathakali. It is on her banks that Kerala Kalamandalam, the premier institution of Kathakali was founded almost a century ago. It is on her banks that my father bought his first house in Kerala.

Painkulam is a small village in Shornur, the house we bought is part of someone’s ancestral house. It is ever so slightly odd to live in someone’s ancestral house, there’s no telling how many generations have grown up here. The newly painted walls, the tiled floors, the Usha ceiling fan, all hide layers of musty old stories. It’s usually in the still of the night or during a power cut in the monsoon that my little box-like room becomes claustrophobic with someone else’s ghosts. My father tells me that it is the ancestral house of a kathakali artist. A chutti artist, a glorified version of the regular makeup-artist. The man currently lives in America. As most stories are, his was also a love story. He fell in love with an American woman who came to learn Kathakali and went back with her to the U.S. Today he’s exported the Kathakali makeup tradition to the U.S and given it new forms and a new name and seems to be doing pretty well with some highly acclaimed art exhibitions. My father claims that it is the ghosts he’s left behind that have pushed me into kathakali. Perhaps it’s just that. The proximity to the Kalamandalam, an old veshakaran’s ghost, or simply a renewed interest in theatre. But a little more digging into why kathakali came back into my life, reveals more.

As a child I must have been terrified of Poothana. In full costume, she was even more of a demoness than I had imagined when I read the stories. That image of Poothana trying to kill the baby, the god I worshipped, stuck in my mind as the all-encompassing figure of evil. Years later when I started researching Hindu mythology and its many manifestations in India, Poothana came back to me. She had haunted me as a demoness when I was a child, but now she haunted me in her vesham as the noble woman. I read the story again, and this time as a Kathakali padam. I went back and looked for the demons and the gods in Kathakali, in an effort to find the heroes and villains of my own story. I was no longer a child who believed in the good of the gods, but I was more importantly not the child who believed in the evil of the demons. Kathakali became a synecdoche for the various understandings and manifestations of caste in Kerala.

excerpt from Vidooshakan- the Harlequin.

Find part(1) here

the night of the chocolate cake and Marius’ love and Marius’ pity

akbarpadamsee-lg
Akbar Padamsee, ‘Christ’

Late last night, I baked a cake. It was well after they had stopped drilling a hole to put up the Ravi Varma painting in the house next door.  New neighbours, old walls. The dead cat had been removed by someone from the  balcony. The remains of food from the table had been cleaned, my guest was an older man. The urge to have the chocolate cake, was not so much as to have it as to bake it. I sieved the flour while I listened to the television I leave on all night, when alone in the house. The cocoa dust in the flour mixed poorly, too dry, too lumpy. The oil made it silken, the sugar made it sweet and then the perfume of the vanilla. It was a note of that, the essence of vanilla that made me turn off the television. The music rang sharply, and I sighed in relief.

The sound of the microwave, dully whirring, the cake moving in slow circles of precise measures would take fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of a few pages from a novel, the beginnings of a film, one very short short story, one very long dream. My options were as few as many. I could see the cake through the yellow inside, like the perfect sun set that no would wax eloquent about. Marius and Lenia made my cake burn slightly on the bottom, leaving the centre still soft to the touch.

Marius: Listen Lenia, I shall explain-
Not for love of you for you are a harlot,
Even a witty harlot, but I must
Remove this heat of the sun
Of the City. Sometimes my thoughts
Take fire and as in verse
The lines turn forth. Listen then, Lenia
My beloved of the moment, and
Take your fingers away from my pouch,
For in the moment of relief I feel cool,
And your hand is irritating,
Not enkindling, and listen – 

Three walls there were
And a road along them-
A weary road along them.
The walls and vales
Were lined with women.
Below the cross was a man of thirty,
A wasted face of much beauty,
He was made indifferently well-
But nothing to me,
A lover of women.

I pitied this man,
Though my blood had beat faster,
For you know Lenia
That I am a lover of women, not men.

Thrice did he cry out
And into my belly came
The gear of desire
But I pitied the man;

Three hours passed-
In the vales below the women
Waited and watched him
And desired him
Till I too grew mad with fire.

Lenia: Did you not think of me?

Marius: They were as nothing, as the
Dust, and I was no longer
A lover of women.

Lenia: Look on me Marius, am I not desire?
My body is creamed and desireful.

Marius: The full lips of John
Stroked my body,
And the red nails of john
Did vile things and made
My body soft.

Lenia: Listen Marius, you are no poet.

Marius: I will not remember those things,
The white disease of the body of John.

 

The winds come down from
The mountains and Marius slept again
In the arms of a woman

 

Sultan Padamsee, ‘Epithalmium’ from Yaraana (read full poem)

 

I used oil instead of butter, granulated sugar instead of icing sugar and walnuts for crunch- broken down, right on the top.

At 2 in the morning, I covered the cake with a lid and placed it in the fridge. Uneaten and decorated.

15 August, 2017

rain in a drawer

12.36 AM

The cat tried to enter the house again. I had left the door ajar as usual and she popped out of darkness with her usual noiselessness (I should fix the bulb outside. This will be the fourth one in six months). Her movement is so noisy, but without a trace of sound. The first few steps are brisk as she hauls half her body in through the opening as thin and fat as her. Then the sudden halt, complete stillness save for the belly heaving under brown-white fur. Her ears sense that I am looking at her. With a quick jerk she turns left to find me in my usual spot. I look into her alert green eyes and wonder if she can see the dormant sleep in mine. I also wonder whether the rest of her body is as still as the present half pretends. I think especially of the tail. The inside of my right palm trembles invisibly as the image of a soft tail escaping my loose grip flashes for a second. Meanwhile, we are still looking at each other, testing waters. At times, without looking away, she takes a step forward and I lunge at her with a mock threat. Immediately the supple feline body folds back into darkness like half a wave. Tonight though, we were too tired for these games. She retreated gently into the night.

I wonder if she will come back tonight. Her surrenders are never final.

 

1.32 AM

I cannot sleep. I must remember this. Even if we spend every living moment of our days and nights together, doing the same things, together, we will never fall asleep, together, at the exact same moment. Even if we see the same dream, we’ll always be at different points in the story. I miss you terribly. The night is a torment. It’s raining. I don’t have to water plants tomorrow.

 

2.04 AM

The rain has turned furious and is crashing passionately against the corrugated plastic roof of the veranda. I have two towels. When it starts raining, I save only one of them. The rain is so thick tonight, that the one hanging nakedly on the wire, will remain soaked for a long time. Perhaps it will take till afternoon for it to dry. That is if the sun comes out. I hope it does. Hot water showers depend on it.

 

2.23 AM

All that sound and fury lasted for twenty puny minutes. I am sure the annoyingly slow but insistent puttering of droplets will last longer. I thought I’ll go through the text I have to teach this Friday. ‘Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea’ Shakespeare, Sonnet 65. The copy of the textbook they gave me, is in tatters.

(British Literature from Chaucer to the Present Day: Tomes and Tatters)

This copy once belonged to Amina Kauser. Her handwriting, like her name, carries a guileless elegance. Diligent notes fill the margins of practically every page. Around the dark black ink of printed words, Amina has practically re-written the whole text, with the softness of her pencil and plainness of her language.

In Sonnet 65, she has no patience for Shakespeare’s tentativeness  : “How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea”. Her version on the side is more conclusive – everything can be destroyed by time beauty is temporary.

She complicates the last line though : “That in black ink my love may still shine bright” (Amina’s note: poem immortalised my friendship to my love (poem)).

 

3.00 AM

Tried sleeping but couldn’t. I felt like going through Amina’s book again, this time to find the more interesting notes – doodles, obscenities, declarations of love, nonsense conversations. There were none. As if Amina always knew that her book will end up in a library. As if she was performing a task, a duty of sanitizing Goldsmith’s dirty mind and containing Donne’s unruliness in her polite annotations. Or perhaps these words and thoughts are not her own, only the handwriting is. I did chance upon a few spellings that Amina is likely to have made up on her own – orthodocs, shasiated, disulutionment. And a question that I cannot decide is a doubt or a rhetoric – “Why is speech primary and writing secondary?”

The last page of the book with no printed word on it, Amina has used to write down all the phonetic symbols in order. Next to each symbol, she has recreated the sound in Urdu script. I think of that old hindi film song where the creepers on the wall, look like Urdu letters and words. This book now looks like an old house full of creepers crawling on walls.

I’ll perhaps listen to that song, while I try to sleep. The cat didn’t come back.

 

12.25 PM

I slept through the morning. When I woke up, a few minutes back, the day was so sunny that for a moment I forgot about the rains. It was raining in my dream though. There was rain, grass, mud and you. Our bodies were glistening and shivering, feet glazed with damp mud, hair as thick as rivers. We were wrapped in each other like coiling leafy creepers, and our hands moved with the elegance of verses written in longhand.

I woke up utterly disoriented. My whole body felt dry as a desert, inside and outside. A strange stiff shoulder and a blocked nose. I should not sleep naked in this weather.

 

1.38 PM

I haven’t opened the door since morning and all the windows are shut; the sun is warming their translucent glass panes. I slept through the breakfast hour, and now I am too lazy to cook. I plan an elaborate lunch for every holiday, but on the day itself, cooking seems like the worst idea. I’ll order something. Water is over too. I hope Murugan is not too lazy to bring it today.

 

2.00 PM

I feel like writing a poem to Amina Kauser. The title – to Amina Kauser is running in my head. I searched for her name on Facebook. The first profile that popped up, carried the picture of an anime girl with pink hair and doe eyes. The profile was empty save for a few pictures, with a string of comments by several men.

One of the pictures said – ‘Life is full of fake people! Trust no one’.  Amina in her book had put a curly bracket around the last two lines of “To His Coy Mistress” and added a note – seize the day. Another picture, another advice – ‘No Love, No Tension’.

The most recent picture was a still from a Hindi film – closeup of a teary eyed actress. The text on the picture said – ‘Don’t come visiting me after I DIE.  I needed you when I was ALIVE’.

 

3.50 PM

Murugan brought water. When I opened the door to collect the canister, he was grinning at me like an idiot. It took me a few seconds to realise that he was grinning because he thought I was an idiot. I had left the garbage bag out last night and by now it lay it tatters, its contents strewn around gloriously on the cement floor. “Abhi poora saaf karna padega” Murugan said, still grinning with his overly white teeth.

Bloody cat!

 

tHe SToryTEller and The IntRodUctioN

 

Like many people, my relationship with my father has been a complex one. Or atleast, for the sake of telling a story in a storylike way it is best to describe the relationship that way. One cannot deny its complexity, which I alone can verify in any case. The complexity of our relationship comes from both of us being objects of fascination to each other, often becoming caricatures of our roles as daughter and father. But not the good sort of caricatures of daughter and father but the poor sort, one always lacking in feature to be the good sort.
The good sort I believe comes to some use as reference in this particular tale of telling. The sort that has acquired the cringworthy comparison of Princess and Hero. Daughters as princesses and fathers as heroes of the daughters who are princesses. The reason I say this may be a useful point of reference is not to simply signify that my relationship with my father is far from any princess-hero rubbish, which it most certainly is- far from, that is. In an odd sense of term however this father of mine has played a particular kind of hero in many stories I have told. Mainly because it is the hero himself who has narrated many of the stories I simply repeat- and admittedly not relayed that they were all from another source. With this attribution, I must comment on how many times heroes narrate their own stories as heroes. One may say that this is a particular trait of heroism- to sing of one’s own valour, lest another may hesitate.
My father is a gifted storyteller. In that, I have secured my opening line to a story of my own telling which characterises him as the storyteller. This ploy has worked one too many times if I may say so myself. To what may face some derision if he were to be in the know, everytime I use this ploy it is to cast this father of mine as the unfortunate anti-hero to justify my politics. He becomes a villainous casteist, the ‘benevolent oppressor’, the misogynist, the patriarch, the manipulator and the easily manipulated. Now you see what I mean by not fitting into the princess caricature. At this point, my father who is a gifted storyteller would turn up his nose and tone filled with condescension point out to me that a story written in complicated sentences cannot be much of a story at all. Which mine are. His stories are long and end in other stories, but one may notice that his sentences are not long. They also have that particular feature of daddies who are heroes and are not, where the sentences trail when imbued with some emotion. To find completion would be horrendous and end in abrupt tellings of tales.
As the object of my stories, this father has played hero in all stories where I make a case against said heroism. I imagine that in all his long hours alone at home, he spins tales of me as the object of his stories as well. A princess who is anything but. He must in his long stories put me in various scenarios where I have not been a princess to illustrate how I must not be seen as one. In these tales I imagine, that as a gifted storyteller with an immense talent for description he will dress me in flowery pants and red lisptick. My red lipstick has become a source of some worry to him. The flowery pants were a mistake he made on my 10th birthday. In these tales he concocts while sitting on the dull grey sofa cover he chose, I must have long arguments about communism, economics and the best way to cut mangoes in the English he resents my command over.
The few times our eyes meet reluctantly over discussing steel plates at lunch, our individual tales of princesses and heroes collapse into the mindless mundane. My relationship with this father of mine is complex I imagine, because we are used to our distaste of each other in flowery pants and misogynist triumph.

*image from The Storyteller, Evan Turk

बैनेड्रिल और नेरुदा की याद

बैनेड्रिल का हैंगओवर कहाँ किसी शराब के हैंगओवर से कम होता है. आधी नींद में आँख खुली तो फेसबुक अपना वही निष्ठुर कार्यक्रम शुरू किये हुए था. मेमोरी वाला. स्मृतियों से ज़्यादा कठिन क्या होता है? फेसबुक मेमोरी पर क्लिक किया तो बहुत सारी अनचाही स्मृतियों के साथ नेरुदा आ टपके. आज उनका जन्मदिन है. वही नेरुदा जिसे मार्केज़ ने बीसवीं सदी का सबसे महान कवि मुक़र्रर किया था. वही नेरुदा जिसने सत्रह साल की उम्र में चेक कवि और पत्रकार जान नेरुदा के पागलपन में अपना नाम नेरुदा रख लिया था. अपने तेरहवें साल में वह खुद को नेफ्ताली रेयेस कहता था. इसी नाम से उसने अपनी पहली कविताएं लिखीं लेकिन जवान होने तक वह पाब्लो नेरुदा के नाम से पहचाना जाने लगा. हालाँकि उसका असली नाम रिकार्डो बासोअल्तो किसी को याद नहीं रहा. न ही उसे याद रखने की किसी को ज़हमत उठानी पड़ी. खुद नेरुदा को भी नहीं. अगर नेरुदा ने अपना नाम नहीं बदला होता? या नेरुदा पैदा ही नहीं हुआ होता? या लातिनी अमरीका का कोई आतंरिक युद्ध उसे लील गया होता ? तो क्या यह पृथ्वी ऐसी ही होती जैसी है? उसके मरने के चव्वालीस साल बाद भी हम मोटे से हरदम पाइप सुलगाने वाले आदमी को क्यों याद कर रहे हैं?

मुझे कभी नहीं मालूम था कि पाब्लो नेरुदा कौन है. जयपुर के केंद्रीय विद्यालय – 3 में थर्ड पीरियड मिस मीनू बांदीवाल का होता था. मैं दो बार ग्यारहवीं करके आया था और चाहता था बारहवीं जल्दी निबट जाए तो स्कूल से छुटकारा मिले. मीनू बांदीवाल क्लास में आईं और ‘कीपिंग क्वाइट’ कविता मुझे पढ़ने को कहा गया. मैं कीपिंग क्वाइट पढ़ रहा था और मुझे लगा कि कवि मुझ ही से बात कर रहा है. वो मेरे बगल में बैठे कुशाल से बात कर रहा है. वो हम सभी से एक साथ नहीं एक एक कर बात कर रहा है. राक्षसी प्रवृत्ति की मेरी क्लास पहली बार इतना मौन धारण किये हुए थी. किसी ने हमें इस तरह मौन रहने की हिदायत कभी दी ही नहीं थी. जिस तरह की कविताएं स्कूल में पढाई जाती रही हैं, सभी कवि तो उठने, जागने, लड़ने, कुछ तय करने को कह रहे थे. यह पहली बार हुआ जब किसी ने कहा कि मौन केवल चुप्पी नहीं बल्कि वह दृष्टिकोण है जससे सतह के नीचे जो घट रहा है सामने आएगा. हम जीवन में बेहतर निर्णय लेने में सक्षम होंगे. मार्केज़ को मैं थोड़ा पढ़ चुका था. जब पता चला कि मार्केज़ से लेकर चे तक सब इस कवि के मुरीद हैं तो जितना बस में आया पढ़ डाला गया. दिल्ली आने के बाद नेरुदा की महँगी किताबें खरीदने के लिए जेब में ज़्यादा पैसे नहीं थे तब इ.एच कार की ‘व्हाट इस हिस्ट्री’ कमला नगर में बेच कर ‘ट्वेंटी पोयम्स ऑफ़ लव एंड अ सांग ऑफ़ डेस्पेयर’ खरीद ली थी. अब लगता है कि ई.एच कार का ही श्राप है जिसकी वजह से ग्रेजुएशन के बाद इतिहास नहीं पढ़ पाया. पहली नौकरी लगने के बाद सबसे बड़ा सुख यह था की नाईट शिफ्ट्स में जितनी किताबों के प्रिंट निकाल सकते हों निकाल लिए जाएं. तनख्वाह जो इतनी कम मिलती है उसका हिसाब नेरुदा के प्रिंट आउटस ने पूरा कर दिया. नेरुदा नहीं होते तो किसने नमक, जुराब, टमाटर, बिखरी चीज़ों, टूटी चीज़ों, खिलौनों, नीबू, जीन्स और न जाने किस किस आम चीज़ पर कसीदे पढ़ उन्हें इतना ख़ास बनाया होता? वे नहीं होते तो कौन माचु पिचू के शिखरों पर ग्रन्थ लिख डालता? कौन अपनी प्रेमिका के लिए सदी की सबसे उदास पंक्तियाँ लिखता? कौन अपनी प्रेमिका को हज़ारों हज़ारों उपमाएं देता ?

हम सब जो विचारधाराओं के धंधे में फसे हुए लोग हैं उन्हें नेरुदा का 1971 में रेडियो कनाडा को दिया गया इंटरव्यू ज़रूर पढ़ना चाहिए. नेरुदा ने गरजते हुए कहा कि ‘मैं आपको बता रहा हूं कि मैं राजनीतिक कवि नहीं हूं. मैं उस वर्गीकरण से नफरत करता हूं जो मुझे विचारधारात्मक रूप से प्रतिबद्ध कविता के प्रतिनिधि के रूप में नामित करने पर जोर देती है. एक लेखक के रूप में मेरी महत्वाकांक्षा, यदि कोई महत्वाकांक्षा है, तो मुझे उन सभी चीजों के बारे में लिखना है जिन्हें मैं देखता हूं. मुझे पता है मैं प्यार करता हूं या मुझे नफरत है. लेकिन मुझे “श्रमिकों की दुनिया” की ओर इशारा करते हुए, आप मुझे नकली और उदार तरीके से जनता या संगठित श्रमिकों के दिग्गजों की चिंताओं के लिए प्रवक्ता बनाते हैं. वह मैं नहीं हूं. मैं केवल लैटिन अमेरिकी दुनिया की चिंताओं के समकालीन दुनिया की चिंताओं की मेरी कविता के एक निश्चित भाग की गूंज भर हूं. लेकिन मैं एक राजनीतिक कवि के रूप में वर्गीकृत होने से इनकार करता हूं. मैं चाँद का कवि हूं, मैं फूलों का कवि हूं, मैं प्यार का कवि हूं. जिसका अर्थ है कि मेरे पास कविता की एक बहुत पुरानी अवधारणा है जो मेरे द्वारा लिखी गई संभावना का खंडन नहीं करती है. मैं वह लिखना जारी रखता हूं जो समाज के विकास और प्रगति और शांति की शक्ति के लिए समर्पित है.’ नेरुदा सदी से सबसे महान प्रेम गीत इसलिए लिख पाए क्योंकि वे जानते थे कि उनकी कविता का जन्म पर्वत और नदी के बीच किसी जगह में हुआ है. बारिश की बूंदों से उनकी कविता को आवाज़ मिली है और वह घने अरण्य में छिपे किसी पेड़ से लिपटी रहती है.

नेरुदा को पढ़ना कभी इजाज़त में नसीरुद्दीन शाह और रेखा को रेलवे स्टेशन के उदासीन वेटिंग रूम में बैठे देखना होता है. कभी पक चुकी कढ़ी में मेथी का तड़का लगाने जैसा. नेरुदा की भाषा लोर्का या बौदलेयर की तरह चूसनी नहीं पड़ती, वह अपने आप आपकी जीभ पर पिघलती चलती है. आपकी भौहों को खुजाती चलती है. आप उसे हथेलिओं में आए पसीने की तरह महसूस कर सकते हैं. एक ही कविता में नेरुदा पूछते हैं –

मुझे बताओ, ये गुलाब यूँ ही उघाड़ा रहता है
या यही इसका श्रृंगार है?

और

बारिश में खड़ी ,गतिहीन रेलगाड़ी से ज्यादा उदास
दुनिया में और क्या चीज हो सकती है?

इसलिए नेरुदा की कविताओं को आप पायजामे की तरह पहन बाजार से आध पाव नीबू खरीदने जाएंगे, तो कुछ शब्द रेहड़ी पर ज़रूर छोड़ आएँगे.

– मलयानिल

अपना अपना चाँद

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अपनी अपनी आँखें हैं तो अपना अपना क़िस्सा होगा
अपनी अपनी ज़बान का अपना अपना लहज़ा होगा

अपनी अपनी पीठ के नीचे अपना अपना दर्द टिकेगा
अपने अपने कान के पीछे अपना अपना धूल बसेगा

अपने अपने अपनों का अपना अपना दूसरा होगा
हर तीसरी नुककड़ का अपना अपना झगड़ा होगा

अपनी अपनी शिकायतों की अपनी अपनी रसीदें होंगी
अपनी अपनी आंसुओं का अपना अपना फ़ायदा होगा

अपनी अपनी हंसी के पीछे अपनी अपनी हार होगी
अपने अपने मोज़ों में छिपी अपनी अपनी शर्म होगी

अपने अपने पैरों तले अपना अपना आकाश खुलेगा
अपने अपने तारों के बीच अपना अपना सा चाँद होगा.

***

 

पोस्ट स्क्रिप्ट:
…प्रेम की एक ही पाती
पर रोज़ अलग अलग
अदाओं के साथ
बाँचती ये तीन औरतें
खट्टी-मीठी नज़रों से
दुनिया को देखती हुई
बुनती रहती हैं
हाथों से
अपना अपना चाँद…

शुक्ला चौधुरी  (तीन गर्भवती महिलाएँ)

liSts foR the rAins

against the rain
The rains are here and so are my 5 o’clock allergies. Not that it comes dot at 5, but come it does. Around 4, I know it’s right round the corner. That’s about when the precautionary measures start. While the water is boiling, the itch creeps into the insides of my eyes. Right first, I wink rapidly. A watching pot never does boil, I increase the temperature. Left next, I shut my eyes tight and open wide again. I know if I scratch, it will only intensify. The water has just started boiling over when a single tear rolls down my right cheek. I add a big tablespoon of coffee into the vessel and let it boil once more. Turn off quickly and grab the nearest cup. The vessel is too hot. I pause for a second or two to deliberate. Sneeze first or pour the coffee into the cup. I go with coffee and sneeze comes with it. I stare at the cup, most of the coffee is in it. I decide to forget what else might be in there.
I shut all doors and windows. the house is covered in all kinds of weeds and creepers and creepy flowers. A single blow of the wind… I sneeze, once, twice, and then a marching band of sneezes. I pour the coffee into the sink and wash the burn off my hands.
I try again- a big roll of toilet paper, a giant blanket and a thinner bedsheet, switch on the fan, turn on the laptop, and all kinds of big and small eats. The blanket is too warm, and I sweat through sneezes 45, 46 and right through 59. I opt for the bedsheet. I sit up straight, throw the bedsheet off and switch on the fan. I can’t watch this anymore, to sneeze one has to concentrate. And one has to sneeze to rid oneself of a stuffed nose. Besides, i can barely see through eyes as small as beads. I rub both vigorously. An eyelash is in there, I’m sure of it. The right one, always the right one. I stick a finger in to pull it out. A finger covered in red and yellow and salt. Both eyes resolutely remain red, no eyelashes pulled out.
x
I think of the long summer before, the dry heat and the wet one as I watch the lizard on the ceiling. I think of that Christmas dinner last winter, I wore a black sweater. Many writers have written about autumn. It’s raining outside and the raintree is in a frenzy. Sneeze 83 to 86 and the lizard disappears. The rains outside have turned into a thunderstorm. It’s quite the sight.

IN dEfensE of thE riGHt browN that IS nEVeR quITe tHe RiGht bRown AnD OtHer ColOURS ThaT arE nOT brOwn

color-worksheets-for-preschool-4There are times when the air is so thick and unmoving, the land dry and barren that I can only describe it in a colour: brown. Brown like the ruggedness of a tree trunk, its bark peeling off the way skin does when burnt. Brown like the Catholic school girl’s skirt that remains resolutely in place. Brown, the brown that isn’t rich like coffee or deep like chocolate. A brown that cannot find an adjective other than…brown. Brown is also sturdy, like planks of wood that becomes a bridge. The furniture at home unchanging and unbroken. The heavy temple doors. The old ceiling fans- the new ones are a forcefully cheerful dull-white. Brown like makeshift cardboard boxes, full with nothing, nothing without anything. Brown of the paper that covered notebooks of math, science and every other dreadful nightmare that made school. Brown of the hair of the servants gone brown from black from working in the sun- crying  out for coconut oil. Brown of the coconut when it’s not tender anymore. Brown of the skin of my hand which still escapes from being too dark. Brown that is not the skin of crispy chicken and all things fried, because that is golden. Brown not of whiskey or the hint of red in rum. Brown that has a smell that can also be described as…brown. Brown of eyes that never look as attractive as hazel that is called brown. Brown that is not dry sand or wet earth. Brown that is the brown under your feet on white sheets. Brown of those lines of sweat and dirt that form on your already brown neck. Brown that is never altogether too brown or too pale to be brown, but is just brown. The colour pencil that isn’t quite your skin colour and not the additional dark brown. The missing brown in WhatsApp emoticons next to the yellow and white. The brown almost like the colour of roots when a giant tree is uprooted- one that is old, almost ancient and had a sudden death. Brown like the mud vessel used for orange-red fish curry with a dash of coconut milk. Brown that doesn’t quite sound brown with a capital B. Brown which needs just a little something after it to be as brown as it can be. A hyphen to separate, a comma to explain, a semi-colon with more to come, a colon to summarise, even an ellipses with more brown to come.

Brown with a rounded sound and a texture almost too rough. Brown that comes like an afterthought, like umami. brown…

I need to learn, again, how to walk

I got my driving license two years ago right before went to UK. After two years, now I am back to China, I don’t think I can drive properly without my parent sitting right next to me and telling me how to do. My hometown is a relatively small city, where traffic is still alright. But I can’t still deal with that- too many cars at the street. Plus, those small and not quite sturdy electric bicycles sometimes come out of nowhere and get on the primary car route, which gives me a chill.
I was even scared of walking at the street on my own during the first few days I got back. Walking at the street here requires another set of skills, it seems. Can’t be too polite. Maybe even have to take a little more courage, or else you can’t get across the street for very long time during rush hours. Again, need to watch for those small electric bicycles, like ghosts- come from everywhere, unbeatable- without the need of observing traffic rules and regulation. Plus, should be aware of those people getting too close to you. Thief. Streets, bus, metro, even in your own private cars, should be aware of someone suddenly comes close to you.
But how can I really stop someone getting close to me in public? It is China. Crowded street is all we should expect and know. So my parents strategy is- don’t wear pretty clothes don’t buy designer bags don’t even buy luxury cars. Don’t show off. Stay low key. So bad people won’t lay eyes on you.
I have to get familiar all those tips and rules again before I wander around my hometown on my own. So after getting back for two weeks, I finally went out for a walk for the first time in the evening.
I like walking around the city. Walking at the street is one of the best way to mingle with the people, I suppose. When I was still in Newcastle, I love to have a walk around for an hour every day. I like how all the buildings and houses are not that tall at all, so it feels like I can look further and enjoy a better view while I walk. I can always catch the sight of the sky without really looking up. I love a walk during weekdays, when the town is start to get quite after 6 pm. Most shops are closed and most people are staying home during weekdays. At first when I went to Newcastle, I needed to get used to how early quietness lays down to this city, then I started to enjoy such serenity. I also enjoy a walk during weekends, when the city centre is on fire. All the dressed up people and all the people dress up not to the weather was quite a shock for me at first. And then all this become quite a view to me and to the city of Newcastle.
Then now all of these seem to be gone. I walk around my hometown. Buildings are getting taller and taller. The tall buildings make the road cramped, which I have never felt this way before, strangely. I can’t see anything beyond those tall buildings alongside the road, which maybe good for me to concentrate on the traffic, even when I walk on the sidewalk. The ghost of small electric bicycles still haunts me on the sidewalk. But walking in my hometown is not all that unpleasant. I still do enjoy a bit busy side of life. When the night falls down to this relative small city, life is still lively here. Shops are open until quite late and people can still enjoy the pleasant of shopping in the evening.
Honk. Sorry, I guess I am stuck in my own thinking a little bit too much. I must be get in a way of some electronic bicycles. I should pay more attention to the traffic. Honk- how can I nearly forgot its existence after two years in UK. Honk gives me a startle, maybe that is how it works. But it is indeed everywhere. It brings the cramped road a little bit more chaos. You can say life is more lively here, as everything is busier. And I just wait patiently until all the cars pass so I can across the street without being startled again. Alas, I don’t mean to sound negative here, but I just need to learn how to walk in my city again.